When I was a kid it was the barbershop next to the courthouse. Or the little haberdashery where I worked part time. Saturday morning congregants. Liar’s poker. Coffee. Cigars. Guy stuff before any of it became a trend or an affectation. Yep, they smoked cigars on Saturday morning in the men’s shop.
I was never really a part of that congregation. I shaved every morning but to those guys I was still a pup. Plus, I had to straighten stock and begin the never ending task of polishing glass counters and cases. But I would watch ‘em play liar’s poker and listen to the fishing tales and other small town, provincial cocksureties. And the whole pile of it smelled like Bay Rum and Old Spice. Then the half dozen or so poker braggers would disperse and regular commerce began. I liked the regularity of it. Rarely would the attendants vary.
I remember walking down Connecticut Avenue when I first moved to the D.C. area. I happened to glance down Jefferson Place and the Flusser awning caught my eye. My Flusser fanaticism was well established but my Flusser togs inventory was nil. I had his books but hadn’t been able to afford his clothes, save the one horizontal striped dress shirt that I bought in 1988 after driving my ‘84 Jetta like a scalded dog through the Lincoln tunnel on my lunch break. Montclair N.J.to the Flusser atelier at warp speed. Flusser wasn’t there that day which was probably for the best. I had to get back to work. I bought the only horizontal striped shirt they had in my size and it cost half as much as my Jetta was worth.Oh, and I had a few Flusser dress shirts from his ready to wear phase…courtesy of a summer sale at Britches of Georgetown. Otherwise…Nadda.
A Flusser shop in D.C.? I walked over and hit the buzzer. I can remember exactly what I had on because it wasn’t what I’d want to wear to a place like this. Levi’s 501s, a black turtleneck and a navy blue double breasted overcoat. Who gives a shit what kind of shoes I was wearing. So the owner, a guy named Mark Rykken introduced himself. The place and the guy...heady. Mind you, this was amidst the wave of Flussfetish spawned by Gordon Gecko and Wall Street. It was pinstripes and horizontal go-to-hells and I was all-in.
I bought my first suit right then and there. Thirteen hundred bucks. What the flip was I thinking? Double breasted nail-head The works. All the freakin’ way. Thank you. I remember Rykken tactfully navigating the measurement process, mentioning only once that jeans weren’t the best swathing around which to run a tape measure.Whatever.
That first visit spawned a routine. Saturday mornings. Hanging out. Eyeball deep in bolts of cloth and Apparel Arts books and PKZ posters and gut ends with white tabs. Thurstons. No cigars. No lies. No need for ‘em. And Rykken’s dad would be there sometimes. Retired U.S. Army officer and jazz fanatic. Crusty guy who you’d a loved if you ever met him. And he, rather like the Andover Shop’s Charlie Davidson, had met and known a lot of the jazz names through the years.
Flusser would come down from Gotham from time to time but I was still yet to meet him.It would be a few years later before our paths would cross. Life is rich, no? Rich in that you never know. You never know what these six degrees, kismet,providential, whateverish encounters are gonna hold. How they’ll unfurl. Rykken to this day is one of my best friends in the world. So is Alan. LFG calls Alan...Alanflusser…one word. And she prayed for him one night. Right after she prayed for Obama. Who’d a thunk it?
I miss those Saturday mornings. But D.C. is too much of a company town…a factory village…to appreciate and sustain something as tasty and special as this little townhouse was. I honestly believe that the reason I still have such a dismissive view of D.C. as a town of any élan, style or taste level is because the Flusser townhouse is no longer here. D.C.? Eff ‘em.
It’s been a couple of decades. And all the players in this saga have experienced rich journeys since. Some of us have less hair and our remaining strands are gray. Not all of us register the same metrics on the tape measure but I do. Only because I can’t afford to replace my clothing from the salad days.
So here’s to Saturday mornings. Coffee and “I’ve got three sevens” lies. And comforting destinations. Familiar nests with friendly congregants. Bay Rum. Flannel and linen. Familiarity.
Onward.From my Alexandria nest. With congregant LFG. No lie.